It was showered with critics’ praise, but no one really paid attention to it.
That was until the Academy Award nominations came out, and it was nominated for Best Picture as well as Best Actress in a Leading Role for newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis, who is the youngest person ever to be nominated at the tender age of 6.
Though it’s pretty much the Oscar underdog, it shouldn’t be dismissed so quickly.
Quvenzhané Wallis plays Hushpuppy, a role she beat out 4,000 other young girls to get, who lives with the dad, Wink, played by Dwight Henry.
They live in the bayou community known as the Bathtub, cut off from the rest of the world by a giant levee.
From the first scene where we see Hushpuppy running around listening to animals heartbeats you know this movie’s different.
Wink does his best to raise his little girl, but he has a mysterious illness and is slowly dying, so Hushpuppy runs around and is basically left to her own devices.
He treats her very rough and is quite ugly at times, but it’s his way of preparing her for life without him.
She goes to a ramshackle elementary school with the few other children in the community where she learns about the polar icecaps melting.
Then, one night during a terrible storm, huge chunks of ice break off the icecaps, which causes a flood in the Bathtub while also releasing prehistoric beasts known as Aurochs, which are hellbent at getting Hushpuppy and her makeshift family.
Everything can easily be seen as metaphorical. Throughout the film, we see the beasts rampaging throughout the land as Hushpuppy’s world spirals out of control.
She goes in search of a blinking light off in the distance beyond a huge stretch of water which she believes is her mother and searches for something that could cure her father.
The movie is very enduring, touching and honest.
It was very hard to hold back the tears during most of the film, perhaps because I’m expecting a young daughter in the next couple of weeks, but it doesn’t just tug on your heartstrings; it yanks on them.
Wallis as Hushpuppy is simply amazing.
Looking at the other Best Actress nominees, they don’t stand a chance. And she’s only 6.
You never once believe she’s acting. I never thought a child could portray such emotion or raw energy on film, but she makes it seem second nature.
She will have a long and illustrious career for sure.
Henry as Wink is hard to care for at first. He’s cruel, rude and a drunk, but he loves his daughter dearly.
And as the film plays out, you realize this more and more, and eventually it becomes sweet and somewhat endearing.
The cinematography is extraordinary. The Bathtub is amazing looking and feels like a real bayou community.
The close-ups of Hushpuppy against the swamp and skies is gorgeous, and the camera work is superb.
Now, it’s filmed a bit like a documentary, with shaky cameras and extreme close-ups, but that’s what makes it feel so real as it strips away all the Hollywood sheen to reveal a true and honest love story between a father and daughter.
The set design is truly stunning. The makeshift houses in which the two live are pieced-together junk but feel like home.
The Bathtub community houses look as if they’re about to crumble to the ground and as if they’ve been there for years.
The score is sparse and only pops in to add an emotional punch when needed.
It’s actually very hard to think back on the music in the film except for the celebration scenes, because it’s so far off in the background, but I’m sure it’s there somewhere.
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” is a fantastic film and deserves more love than it’s gotten over the past few months.
It’s a unique blend of fairy tale and gut-wrenching reality and rarely has a film about the bond of family ever been filmed so beautifully and honest.
And though it’s not overtly sad, it’s an emotional roller coaster, so make sure you have plenty of tissues nearby.
And, though the language is pretty salty at times, after watching it you’ll want to sit with your children and watch it again.
It’s a stunning use of cinematic storytelling and just might take home the golden statue come Feb. 24.
If the movie teaches you anything, it’s that nothing is impossible.
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” can be found at your local Redbox kiosk.
Paul Gonzales is the entertainment writer at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 116, or at thescene@mySouTex.com.